Bangor Has History Project Down to a Science

For its participation in the Maine Community Heritage Project last year, Bangor assembled a team worthy for a Queen City. The team consisted of three schools (two middle schools and the high school) instead of the required one, and both its historical organization and public library partners are of the “super-sized” variety.

The Thomas A. Hill House and Civil War Museum, part of the Bangor History Center, is open for tours throughout the summer.

The professionally-staffed, 145-year-old Bangor Museum and Center for History maintains a huge collection of photographs and artifacts reaching far back into the 19th century. It’s particularly known for its fantastic Civil War collection. On the other side of downtown, the Bangor Public Library serves patrons in all the traditional ways–averaging more than 1,400 books checked out everyday–but it also has its own substantial treasure trove of thousands of photographs, including a terrific record of life at Dow Field in the mid-20th-century.

Bangor Museum and Center for History curator Dana Lippitt with students in Ron Bilancia's Maine Studies class at Cohen School.

Both the Bangor Museum’s curator, Dana Lippitt, and the Library’s archivist and special collections librarian, Bill Cook, spent copious amounts of time at all three schools last year. They worked especially closely with the middle school students–more than 120 7th graders at the Cohen School, and several English/Language Arts classes at the Doughty School.

Bill Cook, archivist and special collections librarian at Bangor Public Library, with Cohen students.

Bill and Dana visited the schools on a regular, rotating basis throughout the year to work with students on research, cataloging, scanning, and constructing their online exhibits. They, the students, and the teachers collectively spent hundreds of hours creating what would become Bangor Man Rats Out Brady Gang (Cohen) and Bangor During the 1940s (Doughty).

The regularity of that process–the integration of it into the curriculum–paid off. Although their formal participation in MCHP ended in June of last year, the process began anew last fall at the Cohen School, resulting in the recent creation of a brand new exhibit on The Great Bangor Floods: 1902 and 1976.

The Bangor flood of 1902, looking down Broad Street. This is just one of the dramatic images in the new floods exhibit created by Cohen School students.

The exhibit includes images from both the museum and library, as well as the Bangor Daily News. The sidebar features slideshows on what life was like during both eras, as well as a slew of photos of the students at work.

Eighty people attended the official unveiling party at Cohen School on June 9. Dana Lippitt brought along vintage clothes for the students to try on–always a bit hit–and there were hall displays and short presentations from each of the team members. Refreshments capped off the festive celebration.

Both Cohen and Doughty plan to repeat the process and create yet more exhibits during the 2011-2012 school year. Cohen has already chosen a Civil War-themed exhibit, complete with sidebars on various sub-topics, to coincide with the ongoing 150th anniversary of the War. We can’t wait to see what the students produce!

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About mainechp

Maine Community Heritage Project at Maine Historical Society
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